Re: Romans 13:11-14 & Isaiah 2:1-5

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the sound of silence.

Paul Simon wrote this in the early 1960’s. There is a longing in this vein for a reality that is truer than the “neon gods” we make. It is so often like us to want to escape or avoid genuineness in our relationships and communication and fall for the imitation of it offered by the neon lights of media, television shows, movies, and so on…and this is from the early 60’s, long before the invention of the internet or the smart phone or social media. We still miss out for we’re “talking without [really] speaking,” we’re still “hearing without [really] listening.” The dark reality is dreadful and at times frightening yet if we don’t acknowledge the darkness, then light will not get where it is meant to go. For Jesus came not to light a path that was already lit, but to bring light where there was none. That is, he entered the darkness to punch holes in it, as Robert Benson’s recent book speaks to. Jesus didn’t escape the reality and go daydreaming or fall for the fake alternative.

“Hello darkness, my old friend.” It is precisely to this context – a world in darkness – that St. Paul encourages the Romans, and therefore us, to wake up – awaken from our day- or night-dreaming and not seek those things that provide an escape to reality. Rather it is time to put our clothes on – Jesus himself, who is the Light of the world – and go share some light! In Advent, while the darkness still abides, light makes its way in one candle at a time…one hole at a time.

one-candle

This is the beauty and mystery of this season in conversation with this Romans passage. For I think we can put it like this: the Son of God put on our flesh so that we can put on Christ’s. We can put him on as our clothing – and neither He nor we will ever be the same. Christ could’ve escaped the reality, escaped the darkness – remained in the confines and safety of his heavenly home without having to suffer, but this way, what Charles Wesley called the sojourning “through this vale of tears” was the only way to bring light to darkness. He steered toward the pain and refused the escape clause, the fake reality. “Hear my words that I might teach you…take my arms that I might reach you.” Reality is Christ’s voice speaking to us, Christ’s arms reaching toward us and our really hearing and listening and welcoming and embracing. Then we extend that out.

How do we do this? How do we live into this? Waking up, not day dreaming, but embracing the reality of this world and its darkness AND YET…AND YET rejecting that this is all there is to it. The season of Advent tells us and gives us the vehicle in which we can proclaim, the best is yet to come! Yet it also manifests itself in simple acts that punch holes in the dark and I think that there is a practice that can help you every day to move toward that end. It can be as simple as doing what Paul says here: “Wake up and put on the Lord Jesus!” Here is a prayer that I use as part of my ritual to begin my days. It is in the midst of a longer set of prayers but this particular prayer is the centering or orienting prayer for how I want to put on the Lord Jesus for the day. The morning canticle from the Northumbria Community, also found in Celtic Daily Prayer:

Christ, as a light, illumine and guide me. Christ, as a shield, overshadow me.
Christ under me. Christ over me. Christ beside me on my left and on my right.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all powerful.
Christ be in the heart of each to whom I speak, in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all powerful.
Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and on my right.

And when you catch yourself escaping too frequently into an alternate world that avoids reality, put your phone down, close the computer, get off Facebook, and go give someone a hug, write a letter, make a phone call, buy a cup of coffee for a stranger, visit someone unable to leave their house, go to the checkout line that isn’t self-serve and share a little light with a clerk. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and let your light shine.

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